How Israel's top sketch comedy show portrayed Wizards rookie Deni Avdija

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Chase Hughes
·3 min read
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How Israel's top sketch comedy show portrayed Wizards' Deni Avdija originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

A primary objective at "Eretz Nehederet" (translation: "Wonderful Country"), the Israeli equivalent of "Saturday Night Live," is to pick current topics to lampoon and feature in their comedy sketches. Several weeks ago, that meant writing and performing a skit about Wizards rookie Deni Avdija, who in November of 2020 became the highest NBA draft selection ever from the country of Israel.

If there was any doubt how famous Avdija is in Israel, this is a perfect indication. Not only was he part of the joke, but so was his father, Zufer. The punchline was about how Zufer, a former professional basketball player himself, was a pushy stage dad for Avdija, whose role was caricatured as if he were a 6-foot-9 Honey Boo Boo.

In the sketch, Avdija and his father, who were portrayed by actors Ori Laizer and Eli Finish, appear as guests on a sports television show. The younger Avdija is wearing his No. 9 Wizards uniform, complete with shorts and the sweatband he wears on his left arm during games.

YouTube

Laizer and Finish as the Avdijas

Laizer, who played Deni, was nice enough to share the backstory with NBC Sports Washington. After the idea was greenlighted by the show's editor in chief, Muli Segev, Laizer then had to get into character.

It turns out parts of his Avdija impression required more work than others. The easy part was looking like him, as Laizer happens to share a resemblance. 

"We are twins separated at birth, but that's a different story," Laizer joked. "I feel grateful to work with the best makeup artists in Israel. This time it was super easy, no prosthetics were needed, so the whole thing took about 20 minutes. When I was impersonating [Quentin] Tarantino, it took four hours of makeup."

@orilaizer

Ori Laizer as himself, Deni Avdija and Quentin Tarantino

Actually getting Avdija's mannerisms and speech down required more effort. Laizer pored through Avdija's Zoom press conferences with the Wizards to get a sense of how he talks. When comedians do impressions in sketch comedy, they often use a tell or a specific phrase as the basis of their character and Laizer was able to find one for Avdija.

"As an actor and an imitator I must be very precise in the manner of impersonations. Every single interview or a video I watch is a gift. It helps me catch the mimics, body language and vocal sounds," Laizer explained

"With Deni I saw that he repeats a lot of sentences such as, 'I'm super excited,' using a lower tone of voice. So, I used that as my key."

Sure enough, if you go back through Avdija's press conferences, he says he is "super excited" quite a bit. In reviewing all of his media sessions with the Wizards so far, he has used the phrase at least six different times, including four times on draft night alone. While the vast majority of the sketch was in Hebrew, Laizer made sure to drop in "super excited" in English several times.

In case you were wondering how Avdija took being parodied on national television in Israel, he seemed to have a great sense of humor about it all, judging by his reaction on Instagram. He pulled a clip from the show and added the caption "we made it" to his stories.

@deniavdia8

Avdija now has the unique honor of being immortalized in a famous sketch comedy show. How many NBA players can say that about themselves?

"Deni is a great athlete; He brought and brings great pride to our country. We believe he will make impressive achievements to the NBA as well," Laizer said.

"Just in case Deni will not be able to play, you can call me to replace him anytime. See you on the basketball court!"